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Tampa Bay’s offense picked up where it left off last week in Washington by struggling right out of the game against Seattle. Bucs starting quarterback Brad Johnson was suspect to start the game, completing just 4-of-7 (57 percent) passes for 34 yards. He misfired on a few throws, including a third-and-11 pass to rookie wide receiver Michael Clayton, who was wide open but couldn’t managed to haul in Johnson’s poorly thrown pass in the first quarter. He also underthrew a pass to RB Charlie Garner in the flat. Johnson’s biggest play came on another poorly thrown pass to Clayton. This time, however, Clayton was able to leap up into the air and make a spectacular sideline grab for a 20-yard gain. Johnson tried to connect with Clayton again in the second quarter, but another poorly thrown pass would prove to be costly after Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant picked the ball off and returned it to Tampa Bay’s 29-yard line. The Seahawks would later score a touchdown after creating that turnover. As a result of his sub-par play and the Bucs’ flat offense, Johnson was benched in favor of Chris Simms with 10:26 remaining in the second quarter.
In Johnson’s defense, Tampa Bay’s offensive line played poorly at times, but Bucs head coach Jon Gruden decided to go with Simms in an effort to provide his struggling offense with a spark. It worked to a degree. Simms came in and engineered two 71-yard drives that resulted in field goals. He displayed playmaking ability and a rocket arm, connecting on deep passes to tight end Rickey Dudley and Charles Lee in tight spots. Those pass plays went for 17 and 31 yards, respectively. Simms also used his feet to scramble for a big first down after gaining 12 yards on the play. That scramble put the Bucs on the Seahawks 3-yard line in the second quarter. As well as Simms played, he looked equally as bad on Tampa Bay’s last drive of the game. The second-year signal caller was nearly picked off four times on that drive, but the last one, which actually counted, was an ill-advised throw as Simms was getting sacked. It fell into rookie safety Michael Boulware’s hands to end the game as the Bucs were driving into Seahawks territory. Simms also fumbled the ball twice, including one time inside the 10-yard line after the ball bounced off his knee as he went to hand it off to the running back. The other fumble occurred after he was sacked. Overall, Simms did provide the Bucs offense with a bit of a spark. He completed 21 of 32 passes (65.6 percent) for 175 yards, thew one pick and led the team on two scoring drives. Unfortunately for the Bucs, those drives resulted in field goals instead of touchdowns.
*Tampa Bay was 4-of-15 (26.6 percent) on third down attempts Sunday.
Tampa Bay rushed 24 times for 92 yards (3.8 avg.) against Seattle on Sunday. While they nearly eclipsed the century mark via the ground game, the Bucs’ offensive line was still inconsistent in its attempt to open up holes for tailback Charlie Garner. Still, Garner ripped off a 25-yard run in the second quarter. He showed good speed, quickness and power for a small back, but Garner didn’t have a whole lot of daylight on the day. He made the best of his opportunities, rushing 13 times for 75 yards (5.8 avg.) and hauling in six passes for 24 yards.
Backup RB Jamel White rushed four times for -5 yards. He didn’t have a lot of holes to run through, either, but White also danced in the backfield too much, which resulted in some negative runs. White is a much better receiver than he is a runner or blocker.
Fullback Mike Alstott rushed two times for six yards. His biggest play came via the passing game when he hauled in a 6-yard pass from QB Chris Simms. That play gave the Bucs a big first down. It’s still early, but it sure seems like Alstott is being phased out of Gruden’s offense.
*The Bucs had the ball for 33:43 compared the Seahawks’ 26:17.
Tampa Bay’s wide receiver corps are in desperate need of some playmakers that can do something with the ball after the catch. Charles Lee started at the split-end position in place of the injured Joey Galloway while Tim Brown started at flanker.
Brown had trouble getting off the line of scrimmage and didn’t have the speed to run much more than curl routes, and ran them he did. He hauled in a team-leading seven passes for 49 yards. His biggest catch came on a crossing pattern, which resulted in a 14-yard gain.
Lee came up with a huge 35-yard catch on a deep ball thrown by QB Chris Simms in the fourth quarter. That play, which was made in-between two defenders, helped set up K Martin Gramatica’s second field goal of the game. Lee was called for a false start in the second quarter.
Despite having to go the locker room for a brief amount of time for undisclosed reasons, rookie WR Michael Clayton impressed for the second straight week, catching six passes for 61 yards. His 20-yard sideline grab from QB Brad Johnson in the first half was a spectacular play. The Bucs obviously need more of those, especially from this unit.
*Tampa Bay had 271 yards of total offense on Sunday.
Bucs tight ends Ken Dilger and Rickey Dudley each had one catch. Dudley’s however, was the biggest. He made a tough catch down the left seam of the field for a 17-yard gain. Dilger’s 12-yard catch in the flat gave the Bucs a first down. With the Bucs in need of better blocking up front and a good receiver, one has to wonder why Bucs second-year TE Will Heller, who had an outstanding preseason, has been on the inactive list for two consecutive weeks.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line played better, opening up some holes in the running game and giving the Bucs quarterbacks a little more time to throw. But overall, this unit still has plenty of room to improve. The running lanes weren’t opened on a consistent basis and Seattle notched a total of five sacks on the day.
Bucs left tackle Derrick Deese struggled against Seahawks defensive end Grant Wistrom, who notched two sacks and seven tackles. Wistrom’s first sack ended Deese’ sackless streak at 35 games.
Don’t be surprised if Bucs head coach Jon Gruden decides to make a change or two on the offensive line this week since the group consisting of Deese, left guard Matt Stinchcomb, center John Wade, right guard Cosey Coleman and right tackle Todd Steussie, just isn’t getting the job done. Seahawks under tackles Cedric Woodward and Rocky Benard each notched a sack.
Anthony “Booger” McFarland had a coming out party at the under tackle position against Seattle, notching two sacks. Both of those quarterback takedowns came on third down plays and resulted in big stops. McFarland had a very active day in the trenches and notched four tackles.
Nose tackle Chartric Darby and defensive end Greg Spires also helped to win the battle in the trenches. Darby did an outstanding job of halting Seattle’s ground game. He recorded six tackles. Spires had five tackles and one sack on Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, which came on a third-and-11 play in the second quarter. Right end Simeon Rice had a quiet game against Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones. He didn’t record a tackle.
*Tampa Bay held Seattle to 56 yards rushing on 23 carries (2.4 avg.). Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander carried the ball 17 times for 45 yards.
Tampa Bay’s linebackers were outstanding in this contest. Bucs weakside LB Derrick Brooks came up with a big interception in the first quarter after QB Matt Hasselbeck’s pass was deflected by cornerback Brian Kelly. He also recorded seven tackles, which tied safety Dwight Smith for the team lead.
Middle LB Shelton Quarles was very active and all over the field Sunday. He notched three tackles and one sack. Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin used Quarles effectively as a blitzer, which put a lot of pressure on Hasselbeck. In fact, Quarles’ pressure on Hasselbeck in the first quarter led to Brooks’ pick.
Strongside LB Ian Gold nearly picked off Hasselbeck on the first pass of the game. He notched three tackles against the Seahawks.
*Seattle converted just 1-of-14 (7 percent) third down attempts against Tampa Bay.
This unit played extremely well against one of the NFL’s most potent offenses. Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck completed 12-of-26 (46 percent) pass attempts for 147 yards and tossed one touchdown and one interception.
Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly broke up a pass from Hasselbeck in the first quarter, which allowed linebacker Derrick Brooks to pick it off. That great play stalled a Seattle drive that was already in Tampa Bay territory. But near the end of the first quarter, Hasselbeck got his revenge by using a pump-fake to freeze Kelly just long enough to allow Seahawks wide receiver Koren Robinson to get behind him, which resulted in a 27-yard touchdown pass. That play put the ‘Hawks up 10-0. With the exception of that play, Kelly had a strong game and notched five tackles.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber recorded two tackles, including one on Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander in the backfield for a loss. Nickel CB Mario Edwards was solid as well. The Bucs did a nice job of limiting big plays from one of the league’s most talented three-receivers sets.
Safeties Dwight Smith and Jermaine Phillips were impressive. Smith tied Brooks as the leader in tackles with seven. Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin used Phillips near the line of scrimmage early and often. He proved to be an effective blitzer in both the running and passing game. Phillips recorded six tackles on Sunday.
Tampa Bay kick returner Frank Murphy averaged 21 yards per return and gave the offense good field position.
The Bucs are hurting without Joey Galloway as their punt returner. Neither Bill Schroeder nor Tim Brown were effective Sunday. In fact, Schroeder muffed a punt in the first quarter that could have been very costly. Cornerback Corey Ivy recovered the fumble on Tampa Bay’s 16-yard line, and after the offense went three-and-out, Seattle received the ball on its own 46-yard line and eventually kicked a 44-yard field goal.
Tampa Bay’s punt and kickoff coverage units were solid, and kicker Martin Gramatica drilled 24- and 27-yard field goal attempts, which were the team’s only points of the game.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell averaged an impressive 46.4 yards per punt on eight attempts. His long was a 55-yarder, and he had two attempts go inside the 20-yard line.
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden had no choice but to pull quarterback Brad Johnson and replace him with Chris Simms. Quarterbacks are counted on to make plays and Johnson simply wasn’t making any. Gruden’s call was a gutsy one and it seemed to work, evidenced by the fact that Simms led the Bucs on two 71-yard scoring drives. If Simms takes over as Tampa Bay’s starting quarterback, which would not be a surprise, Gruden’s playbook may open up a bit. Hopefully the offensive line can do a better job of protecting him.
Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin did a great job of throwing a variety of blitzes at the Seahawks’ offense. Using middle linebacker Shelton Quarles and safety Jermaine Phillips to blitz quarterback Matt Hasselbeck nearly worked to perfection. Seattle’s offense led the league in third down conversion percentage (46 percent) last season, but Tampa Bay held the Seahawks to just 1-of-7 on third down attempts and 182 yards of total offense on Sunday. The Bucs also did a great job of containing Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander, who is one of the league’s best rushers.
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